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100 feared dead in India ferry disaster

April 30, 2012 at 5:01 PM

DHUBRI, India, April 30 (UPI) -- At least 100 people were feared dead after a ferry carrying 300 people capsized in the Brahmaputra River in India Monday, police said.

The ferry capsized about 5 p.m. in west Assam's Dhubri district, the Hindustan Times reported.

"The ferry was sailing southeast from Dhubri town to Hatsinghimari. Motorized ferries and country boats tend to be overloaded in these parts," district police Chief Pradip Saloi said from Dhubri.

The vessel was caught in a severe cyclonic storm. Witnesses said they saw passengers being swept away by the river's strong currents.

"The storm sliced through the overloaded boat. We hardly had time to react," said Qasem Ali, a survivor.

So far, 68 people have been confirmed dead and only 38 bodies had been recovered, police said. About 100 people swam to safety.

Rescue teams were looking for survivors and bodies, but low light and bad weather hindered their efforts.

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed grief over the incident and Singh promised to rush disaster response units from New Delhi to the scene.

Meanwhile, a government spokesman said an investigation had been started into the cause of the mishap.

"The intention is to fix responsibility and ensure that the number of passengers on ferries is regulated," he said.

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